There’s a tremendous amount of materials development taking place now to protect and improve the performance of the modern solider. One of the materials being actively investigated isn’t new at all, however. It’s wool—the same material used by the Army of the Potomac in the 1860s. The Marine Corps temporarily banned the wearing of synthetic materials by combat troops after soldiers sustained serious burns from clothing that burned, and sometimes melted, fusing to skin. Short-term, soldiers shifted to all-aramid clothing, an expensive and uncomfortable solution. The Army Soldier Systems Center has been developing a family of woolen, flame-resistant woven and knitted fabrics to replace polyester and nylon. The American Sheep Industry Association and the American Wool Council developed two knit fabrics and one woven fabric that are flame retardant. The US Army is current considering a fabric that is a blend of 50 percent wool and 50 percent Nomex, a meta-aramid made by DuPont. Wool improves the comfort and reduces the cost. TenCate Southern Mills received a million dollar order from the US Army to provide Lenzing FR rayon, for the Defender M program in which a fabric with a camouflage print made from Lenzing FR and para-aramid or polyamide. Lenzing FR may also be paired with wool in another program under evaluation.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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